Are you constantly sick with an unidentifiable illness? Is your nose always stuffed up? Does your head always feel foggy? Do you get headaches? Maybe it has something to do with where you live. Although there’s no clear path of research that indicates a home or building could be the cause of someone’s ailment, many medical professionals and individuals believe it’s a problem.
It’s most readily identified when symptoms decrease or disappear entirely after you leave the premises, but they come back when you return. This is a phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome,” and it’s believed to be caused by toxins and other harmful substances that build up in a structure or residence. If you suspect you might be getting sick on a regular basis because of something in your house, here are a few telltale signs that you might be correct.
1. You Have Mold
There are various kinds of mold. Some are harmless and others quite harmful. Black mold is the most dangerous form, because its spores can become lodged in the lungs and cause an array of upper respiratory problems. Black mold can be difficult to spot, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can eliminate the problem. “Look for any water spots or damp areas, especially in the basement or other prone areas,” recommends a blog from a Houston property management firm.
“If you see any black or green spots on the walls, it could be a sign of mold—but the worst kind of mold hides from plain sight, necessitating you to check hidden nooks and crannies for any moisture or mold development.” The blog also warns that mold abatement can cost thousands, so be prepared for a potentially significant expense.
2. You Use Air Fresheners in Every Room
It’s nice to have a house that smells great from air fresheners, but too many in the home can be toxic. As the air freshener releases phthalates into the air and improves the general odor, we breathe them in. “Phthalates can act as a synthetic hormone inside the body. When we have synthetic chemicals that interfere with natural processes, we start worrying about health issues,” environmental toxins expert Laura Adler shared with TheHealthy.com. She recommends using essential oils or fresh flowers and plants to improve the smell of your home instead.
3. You Have a Ton of Carpet
Carpet is a trap for hair, dust mites, and other allergens that can make the upper respiratory system and sinuses go wild. If you are, or someone who lived on the premises earlier was, a pet owner, hair and dust mites may lodge in the nap for months and years. This is part of the reason that hard flooring has become popular. Not only does it look fresh and inviting, but it’s also more hygienic.
4. Your Air Filter Is Clogged and Inefficient
When’s the last time you changed your air filter? Many homeowners never think about this essential part of keeping the air in their homes and HVAC systems clean. If your air filter is caked with dirt and hair, it’s been pumping those allergens throughout your home. When you replace your air filter, use a HEPA model. These are EPA approved to remove up to 99 percent of airborne particles so you’re not breathing in toxins, allergens, and harmful chemicals.
5. You Have Radon in Your Basement
Radon is more common in households than you might think. It’s an odorless gas that occurs when uranium deposits in the soil around your foundation get broken down. The EPA believes that one in 15 homes has elevated radon levels. Unfortunately, radon is a poisonous gas that can not only make you feel sick but also increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Radon gas is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking. A radon test is affordable and simple to perform at home, and it could save your life.
6. Your House Is Old
Old homes are filled with unpleasant and toxic surprises. Often, they hide within the walls of your home. The two most common risks associated with homes older than 1978 are lead and asbestos. Both can lead to the development of cancer and other illnesses such as lead poisoning. According to the EPA, it’s not easy to tell when you have asbestos in your insulation or popcorn ceilings. A professional will have to test them to confirm the asbestos content. In addition, the experts don’t always recommend you remove it. “Asbestos-containing materials that aren’t damaged or disturbed are not likely to pose a health risk,” the EPA website states. “Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos-containing material alone if it’s in good condition.”
If your premises contain lead paint, the EPA recommends leaving that alone, as well … or painting over it, if possible, without scraping the bottom layers. Millions of homes have lead paint, so it’s important to minimize your exposure to chips or dust while you live in one of those homes.